I know its been some time since I last posted any content. But here I am, this post is gonna be really interesting for everyone ranging from beginners to professional photographers. Pan/tilt camera mount is essentially a type of tripod head just like any other tripod head.
I have already written a detailed post on ball heads, check it out here. Ball heads and pan heads are the most common camera mounts you will come across. Many of you are already familiar with pan/tilt head. For those of you newbies, stay put for the next 8-10 minutes and you will have a reasonably fair idea about it.
PAN/TILT HEADS – WHO IS IT FOR?
Well, let me start by explaining what does a pan/tilt head do. So all right, as the name suggests this particular mount is a perfect tool for panning be it sideways or up/down. You cannot simply reproduce the same results from any other way. These are specifically designed to give you a free flowing pan. Tilting is just rotating your camera along its sides.
These are extremely common in the world of photography and if you have ever bought a tripod, it probably came with it. Pan heads are great, some people like to use only pan heads because of its precision of movement. But having said all this, WHO IS THIS FOR? To answer this question, I need you to ask yourself the following questions.
Are you interested in making panoramas?
Are you into capturing panning images (like photographing race cars, etc)?
Are you planning on making films, etc?
If the answer to any one of the above questions is yes, then I strongly recommend that you buy yourself a good pan head. Now, before you get to excited about buying another piece of equipment, let me mention some pros and cons of a pan head.
- Extreme precision
- Very easy to operate
- Sturdy as an Oak
- Relatively cheap.
- Very bulky and heavy
- Can take up a lot of time to set up/adjust
Among all the other things, the only drawback of a pan/tilt head is it can really take a lot of time to adjust. You will need to spend a considerable amount of time practicing and getting used to the screws. But on the positive side, it will help you to stop and compose a shot perfectly rather than clicking away like a maniac!
KINDS OF PAN/TILT HEADS
Let’s get to the next section here, kinds of pan/tilt heads. Frankly there are not a lot of types of these heads just a couple or so. But each one is works basically as the other except for some extra features. The reason, I want to include this section is so that you can make a well-informed decision before spending your money.
3-WAY PAN/TILT HEADS
Among all the other types, the 3-way pan/tilt head is the most common. The 3 stands for the 3-axes about which this head can rotate your camera. If you know a bit about mechanics, you might be familiar with roll, pitch and yaw. If not no problem, it will be clear with this diagram.
Assume your camera to be this plane, so a 3-way head allows you to move thew camera along these three axes. It offers excellent flexibility and precision. You can adjust one screw (move your camera in one direction) and keep the other knob screwed in place.
2-WAY PAN HEADS
By now you might have guessed what does it do. It moves your camera only along 2-axes that is sideways and up/down. There is no tilt motion that means you won’t be able to take shots in portrait mode. 2-way heads are mostly used in film making because there isn’t much use of portrait mode of shooting.
Although fluid heads are different from pan/tilt heads in their mechanisms but there function remains the same. Pan heads are comparatively jerky and not as smooth as a fluid head when it comes to panning. This is because in a pan head solid parts grind over each other which creates friction which leads to erratic motions.
On the other hand, a fluid head uses a principle called dampening. With the fluid mechanism it drastically reduces those jerks by absorbing them just as a shock absorber. You might face some resistance in movement from the head itself! Also, beware of online sites that say fluid type head or fluid like head! These are simple pan heads with greased parts. Don’t waste your money on them.
MOTORIZED PAN/TILT HEAD
To be honest, these are videography heads. You won’t need them for photography. They are expensive and impractical to use in photo shoots. But just for the sake of your information, these are driven by a set of motors to obtain the pan. Some great footage can be captured with this head due to its flawless motion.
HOW TO USE ONE?
Here comes the interesting part, now that your are interested in pan/tilt heads, I’m gonna let you in on some photography techniques that you can do using a pan/tilt head. Before you head out, I highly recommend that you learn atleast the basics of Adobe Lightroom. If you want to learn it in-depth, check this link out!. It is a very exhaustive course on Lightroom and it is pretty much everything you need to know about the tool.
Back to point, the first technique which I will be discussing is of course panning. Panning is moving your camera along with the subject and taking a shot. Keep the camera on autofocus continuous mode so that it tracks the subject it moves around the frame. Lock the autofocus on the subject and shoot. Make sure your aperture is f/11 or f/16 (very small) and your shutter speed is 1/10 sec, 1/15sec, etc. The idea is for as long as the shutter remains open, the camera should move along with the subject in focus! Take a moment and read it again.
Here are some sample images…
Next up is taking panoramas, I believe that pan/tilt heads make the best panoramas. Making a panorama is a little detailed process, so I’m gonna condense it so that you get an overview of what’s going on.
Well to make a panorama, you must have an ultra wide scenery like a big beautiful bridge or a mountain range, etc. Next, mount your camera on a tripod in portrait orientation, focus on the subject and switch it to manual focus. Adjust the exposure and remember not to change those settings throughout the process. We will take a maximum of 5 or 6 shots to cover the whole frame(pan the camera in between each shot). Make sure that every frame has atleast 20% of data from the previous image otherwise you will run into issues while stitching them in lightroom and photoshop. Here is an example!
Having a pan/tilt head in your toolbox is always a plus. Much like ball heads pan heads have their own importance. Again, the market is filled with thousands of products to choose from. Pan heads come relatively cheap, starting from $20!. But you wouldn’t wanna go that way.
I recommend Manfrotto 410 3-Way Geared Pan-Head. It is an excellent tripod head, very professional and super convenient to use.
Max Load : 11lb/5kg
Material : High quality Aluminum
360 degree panning
+30 to -90 and -30 to +90 tilt angles
Weighs 2.7lb/1.2 kg
Has a bubble level
Priced at around $235, it is a very healthy investment. If you are on a budget look out for Manfrotto X-Pro 3-Way Pan Head. It is also an excellent tripod head and will get away with most of the tasks. It is priced sweetly at $107 and is a great value for money.
Whether you buy these or not, keep one thing in mind that these pieces of equipment are built to last a long long time. Just make sure to use them properly and maintain them.
Tripod and tripod accessories constitute a large segment of photography industry. Knowing which tool to use and when makes a good professional. Pan/tilt head must be an option in your kit along with the other heads. Sometimes, people restrict themselves only to these heads because of their various pros. But then, it depends on person to person. Overall is a very frequently used equipment and a great learning tool for beginners.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. I wanted to write this post on pan/tilt camera mount to complement my other post on ball heads. For any queries or questions, please leave them below in the comments section and I’ll be happy to answer them.
Tripods For All